The FBI suspected within days of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that the American Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki may have purchased tickets for some of the hijackers for air travel in advance of the attacks, according to newly released documents reviewed exclusively by Fox News.
The purpose of these flights remains unclear, but the 9/11 Commission report later noted that the hijackers had used flights in the lead-up to the attacks to test security and surveillance.
The heavily redacted records – obtained by Judicial Watch through a Freedom of information Act request – suggest the FBI held evidence tying the American-born cleric to the hijackers just 16 days after the attack that killed nearly 3,000 Americans.
“We have FBI documents showing that the FBI knew that al-Awlaki had bought three tickets for three of the hijackers to fly into Florida and into Las Vegas, including the lead hijacker, Mohammad Atta,” Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, told Fox News.
He added that the records show the cleric, killed in September 2011 by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen, “was a central focus of the FBI’s investigation of 9/11. They show he wasn’t cooperative. And they show that he was under surveillance.”
One FBI investigative report known as a 302 summarizes the bureau’s investigation of Al-Awlaki’s Visa transactions. While heavily redacted, the document indicates a credit transaction for “Atta, Mohammed — American West Airlines, 08/13/2001, Washington, DC to Las Vegas to Miami,” the document says.
The mid-August flight, according to the Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9/11, which first investigated the attacks, was one of Atta’s numerous and crucial surveillance flights.
“On August 13, Atta flew a second time across country from Washington to Las Vegas on a Boeing 757 (seated in first class) returning on August 14 to Fort Lauderdale,” the 9/11 report reads.
The FBI documents also show a credit card record for a “Suqami, S. —-Southwest Airlines, 07/10/2001, Ft. Lauderdale to Orlando.” Satam al-Suqami was one of the muscle hijackers on American Airlines Flight 11, which slammed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.
The third individual, identified in the records is a “W. al-Sheri — National Airlines, 08/01/2001, San Francisco to Las Vegas to Miami.” This appears to be either Waleed al-Shehri or Wail al-Shehri. The two brothers were also muscle hijackers, according to the 9/11 Commission report.
As part of its ongoing investigation of the cleric, Fox News was first to report in the special “Fox News Reporting – The Secrets of 9/11,” broadcast in September 2011, that the cleric was an overlooked key player in the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
Read more at Fox News
- FBI knew al-Awlaki had bought air tickets for 9/11 hijackers — still was invited to Pentagon and preached on Capitol Hill (jihadwatch.org)
- Exclusive Video: Anwar al-Awlaki’s Long-Lost U.S. Speech from September 1, 2001(pjmedia.com)